The D.I.Y. Scrim you can make yourself for amazing window light

Scrims are some of the most versatile light modifiers you can own. They diffuse the sun, or a flash. I put my speedlight (or studio light) behind a large, 4’x6’ scrim and can create gorgeous window-like light just about anywhere. You can buy scrims like this from various sources, or build one of your own if you’re on a tight budget. With a LunaGrip light modifier and one of these large scrims, you have a knockout combo of tools to create almost any kind of portrait or product lighting, anywhere – and it all folds down nicely and is easy to carry.

I’ve created a video showing you what to buy and how to build your own scrim for about $20. Have fun and share some of the images you create with it!

Bright sun lighting tips!

Lighting - Kevin Kubota
The summer sun is out, birds are singing, unicorns are happily playing, and photographers are cursing the lighting! Everyone wants beautiful outdoor portraits, but the bright sun can pose a challenge to your soft, flattering light desires. I've been a wedding photographer for over 20 years and faced challenges from sunny beaches to baking hot concrete parking lots. Here are some of my full sun lighting tips.
  1. Find shade! This might seem obvious, but many photographers neglect to simply ask their client to move locations. Either they are too shy, or think the client absolutely loves their current stake of ground. If you kindly suggest to them that the light is MUCH more flattering to their faces if you move "over there", they generally oblige.
  2. Use the sun as a backlight or hair light. If you have any direction to the sun at all, meaning it's not directly overhead, then you have a potentially beautiful backlight or hair light. Just make sure the sun is not casting dark shadows on the face and then create your facial lighting with a soft, white reflector or a diffused flash. Our LunaGrip works perfect for this.
  3. Create a sun shade. If you have a larger diffusion disk of 40" or so, or better yet, a larger scrim (a translucent white fabric on a frame), then you can shade your client and create an amazing soft light. Ask an assistant, or two, to hold the diffuser overhead – or wherever the sun happens to be. Sometimes you may also want to add a reflector, or diffused flash, to complement the diffused overall light from the scrim.
  4. If you get really desperate and can't move or shade your subject, then fill flash might be your only option. I prefer to use a diffused flash instead of a direct one. This gently fills the shadows and doesn't look so snapshot like. Use a small softbox, LunaGrip, or other flash diffuser directly above your camera lens to avoid creating cross shadows. Take a test shot or two to find the right exposure balance and open up those eye sockets.

About the Image: The LunaGrip is used with a single speedlight to add beautiful lighting to the subject's face, and sparkling catchlights in her eyes. I moved her just out of the bright sun to keep her from squinting and to eliminate the harsh shadows. The LunaGrip keeps the bright, sunny day feel, but creates the perfect portrait lighting. Get a LunaGrip now on sale for under $100!

My Lightweight Lighting Essentials Kit

This lighting kit contains all the essentials to create the 3 basic lighting styles I teach in my workshops: Large Window, Medium Diffused, and Crisp & Direct. With this setup and a little education, you can create amazing lighting in any situation, indoors or out. The kit uses speedlights exclusively, as they are super portable, powerful, and extremely versatile. Optionally, you can use 2 speedlights behind some of the modifiers to double your light output. 

Note: this page will be updated as I find newer and more betterer options ;-)

This is the full Kit. See below for details on each item.

This is the full Kit. See below for details on each item.

My Lighting Notebook. Knowledge is king! 101 lighting setups shown and explained so you know exactly how to use all this stuff.

 

Westcott Scrim Jim 4’x6’ kit on B&H. Perfect window light anywhere. Fire your speedlights through it or diffuse the sun. 

 

Westcott LunaGrip 5-in-1 Kit: Designed by Kevin Kubota. This is my main tool for the most useful lighting style, medium diffused. Comes with collapsible 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser. Similar to a 40" soft box, but easier to pack, faster to setup, better in the wind, and more versatile. Use also as a perfect flat reflector holder with the silver/white cover. I use two of these – one as a main light, and the other with reflector for fill.

Rogue Grid for speedlights. Give your speedlight a soft spot light for dramatic lighting and controlled beam spread.

 

Gorillapod Focus for holding speedlights and attaching them to just about anything or anyone.

Cullman CB 2.7 mini ballhead for attaching your flash to the Gorillapod, or a lightstand

Sticky Filters for Flash. Instantly gel your flash for color balancing or groovy effects.

Singh-Ray 77mm (Thin Mount) Vari-ND Variable Neutral Density Filter. These are optional, but really cool for creating some dramatic lighting effects outside with flash. When you want to combine flash with sun, these are more efficient than using high-speed sync on your speedlight.

Westcott Light Stands Simple, basic, affordable. With some simple clamps, two of these will hold your Scrim Jim straight up. You can get dedicated clamps for the scrim if you anticipate holding the frame up at different angles. 

 

Kupo tilting adapter for attaching your LunaGrip to a light stand or handle. Technically, you could attach it without the tilt adapter, but then you have less flexibility for positioning. 

Lastolite Extending Handle. A handle is much more mobile than a light stand, assuming you have a handy assistant to hold it. I love using a handle because it enables me to move around more, perfecting my light, and getting a wider variety of images in a shorter amount of time. 

Yongnuo Nikon starter 2-pack (includes on-camera controller and one flash transceiver): 

2-pack Nikon additional transceivers for extra flash units: 

 

For Canon, order below models. Not sure why B&H doesn’t have the Canon starter set same as Nikon. 

Yongnuo Canon on-camera controller (need one of these and also transceivers below for each flash): 

Nikon SB910 Speedlights These are my favorites so far. There is a new Nikon SB5000 that I haven't tried yet. These lights have much more power than any of the generic brands.

 

Optional, but will come in handy eventually:

Triple Flash holder for combining speedlights to increase output or decrease recycle times.

Bolt battery pack for speedlights give 1400 full-power flashes with 1-second recycle time! Pow! I love this pack because it's very compact and light. Make sure to order the appropriate cable for your brand and model flash. Nikon cable here. Canon Cable here. You can even charge your phone or tablet with this and the USB adapter cable.